me and my big ideas
So I should back up and say that radical relationship styles have always appealed to me. Yeah. They really have. Like, for one thing, I've always been skeptical of monogamy. Even though I have been a diehard practitioner of serial monogamy for YEARS, I have still had my doubts. So I'm always curious about relational structures that allow for a variation on the serial monogamy theme: open relationships, polyamory, "don't-ask-don't-tell" cheating arrangments, friends-with-benefits, stuff like that. I've also been interested in (and explored a little) sex as recreation, power dynamics in sex, bdsm, pornography, etc. I have studied sex almost academically, and I've definitely studied it more than I've had it.
My first exposure to what I would call a radical relationship came when I was in the tenth grade and I did a project for my art class about Georgia O'Keeffe. I was fascinated by the relationship she had with Alfred Stieglitz. First of all, he was dramatically older than she was, and that right there was interesting to me. Intergenerational relationships are radical. (This I know from experience now.) But I was also deeply affected by the structure of their relationship. He was older and settled in New York, but she was still young and loved to travel, so they spent half the year together in New York and then she spent the other half of the year travelling all over. I remember being so fascinated by that, it seemed like the perfect arrangement: all the stability and comfort of a long-term, committed relationship, with all the freedom of being single.
Then, several years later (in college), I ran across Anais Nin's 'Henry and June.' Wow. What an eye-opener that was. She wrote so freely about having several lovers in addition to her husband, about juggling the relationships which all had different meanings and played different roles for her. She also wrote about her affair with Henry Miller's wife June, during the same time she was fucking Henry himself. Jesus, what drama! But it all seemed so INTERESTING to me. So COMPELLING.
Not compelling enough, however, for me to successfully try to bring any of those things into any of my actual relationships. When it came right down to it, I was always too afraid of being alone to risk putting someone off by trying to live that more radical kind of experience. As soon as I got the first whiff of disapproval from a new girlfriend, I pushed all those big ideas aside and settled down.
With one major exception: CB, my alcoholic ex-wife. In fact, one of the first things that piqued my interest in her was a conversation we had one night at work about relationships. We found ourselves agreeing one-hundred-percent on the subject of open relationships. At the time, my theory went something like this: your primary relationship should not interfere with other relationships that you might have. If your primary relationship doesn't interfere with (and isn't threatened by) your *friendships* then why should it interfere with and be threatened by friendships that also involve make-outs or sex? Where's the line between hugging your friend and fucking your friend, and isn't that line naturally arbitrary and if the line is arbitrary then why does there have to be a line at all?
Anyway, CB and I agreed on all those points and, next thing I know, I'm hitched up with this woman in a self-proclaimed open relationship. I was so excited! Unfortunately, I did not much benefit from our open relationship. She was so crazy, so out-there with her own radicalness, I was polarized into a much more conservative role. I was constantly trying to get her to come home, calm down, settle in a little and all the while she was just chomping at the bit to get back out into the world. Oh well.
So now, after all these years, I'm going to try once again to live my radicalness. I will start by learning how to be alone, how to make new friends and trust more people, how to cultivate friends-with-benefits, how *not* to put all my eggs in one basket. Sometimes that will leave me feeling lonely. So I'll have to make friends with lonliness so it won't be so frightening. And then we'll see what happens.